BREMERTON, Wash. — Three brothers are accused of ripping off dozens of car buyers in Bremerton by rolling back odometers to sell the vehicles at a higher price.
Bremerton Police arrested two of the brothers on Wednesday then served warrants at two Navy Yard City properties located in the 3700 block of Madrona Street and the 3700 block of C Street, where the vehicles were stored. During the search, detectives impounded at least three vehicles that were not registered to the properties.
“Unfortunately, most of (the victims) didn’t know they’d been taken advantage of until I contacted them,” said Bremerton Police Det. Martin Garland.
The organized crime investigation started in January 2014 after a victim found a repair invoice in a vehicle that was purchased from the suspects. The victim noticed the mileage didn’t look right, checked the car’s history on CarFax, and determined the mileage was incorrect.
Bremerton Police said the brothers purchased the cars on Craigslist then resold them at higher costs after rolling back the odometers, which would make it appear the cars didn’t have as many miles so the suspects could get more money.
“One of the big pieces to this puzzle was we were able to determine the CarFax account that our suspects were using and they, themselves, were running a CarFax on the vehicles,” said Det. Garland. “They would print that out, alter the mileage on the CarFax report, and then provide it to the victims as proof of the mileage.”
Detectives subpoenaed the records for the suspects’ CarFax account and learned the suspects had done more than 3,000 searches for vehicles.
Detectives said the men always made cash transactions and they did not register the titles of the cars to make it appear they were never in possession of the vehicles.
In some cases, the suspects rolled back the odometers 150,000 miles. On average, the brothers made about $1,200 per deal.
So far, detectives have confirmed the suspects sold 40 cars with false odometers but they believe the suspects actually sold more than 200. The investigation has required extensive research on each vehicle that involves contacting the new and previous owners, checking the vehicle history, and CarFax reports.
“One of the scary things in this case is the mileage and money can be replaced but the safety they’re taking from these victims – they provided invoices that said their brakes had been fixed when they hadn’t,” said Det. Garland.
Detective Garland said one of the suspects appeared to be such a good salesman he even posed for photographs with some of the victims after the purchases were complete. The suspects usually agreed to meet the buyers in the parking lot of Bremerton businesses so that’s why Bremerton Police has jurisdiction on the case.
“He knew everything about the car up and down. At least that’s what we thought,” said one victim who purchased a 2002 Subaru from the suspects after responding to a Craigslist ad.
The victim said her husband quickly became suspicious of the $5,000 purchase and looked up the car’s history on CarFax. That’s when they learned the car, which they thought had 92,000 miles when purchased, had a higher mileage. The couple contacted the former owner and learned the car actually had 230,000 miles when it was sold to the suspects.
The suspects are facing more than 100 felony counts that include leading organized crime, forgery, and illegal vehicle transfers.
By: Casey Edds